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8.550648 - VIVALDI: Pastor Fido (Il), Op. 13, Nos. 1-6
Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741)
Once virtually forgotten, Antonio Vivaldi now enjoys a reputation that equals the international fame he enjoyed in his heyday. Born in Venice in 1678, the son of a barber who was himself to win distinction as a violinist in the service of the great Gabrielis and Monteverdi at the basilica of San Marco, he studied for the priesthood and was ordained in 1703. At the same time he established himself as a violinist of remarkable ability. A later visitor to Venice described his playing in the opera-house in 1715, his use of high positions so that his fingers almost touched the bridge of the violin, leaving little room for the bow, and his contrapuntal cadenza, a fugue played at great speed. The experience, the observer added, was too artificial to be enjoyable. Nevertheless Vivaldi was among the most famous virtuosi of the day, as well as being a prolific composer of music that won wide favour at home and abroad and exercised a far-reaching influence on the music of others. For this reason his name became a guarantee of quality, particularly after the great success of The Four Seasons.
Il Pastor Fido, one of the most popular works attributed to Vivaldi, is of doubtful authorship, although it contains identifiable borrowings from Vivaldi and contemporary Italian composers. Not unnaturally, no manuscript of the six sonatas survives, and modern editions are derived from two surviving copies printed in Paris in 1737, with the title "Il Pastor Fido", Sonates pour la Musette, Viele, FIûte. Hautbois, Violon Avec la Basse Continue dei Sig' Antonio Vivaldi opera XIII. The edition is dated 17th April 1737 and the surviving copies are in the Bavarian State Library and in the library at Arles. Doubt is cast on the authenticity of the six sonatas, whatever their merits, by the suggested instrumentation, which includes the fashionable French musette (shepherd bagpipe) and vielle (hurdy-gurdy), instruments now obsolete, at least in music of this kind. The publication, by Jean-Noel Marchand, a French musician, was part of the attempt to profit from the popularity of Italian music, without infringing the royal monopoly of publication granted to others, notably, in this case, to the Le Clerc brothers. A plausible case has been made for Nicolas Chédeville as the composer of Il Pastor Fido, a musician to whom the work was attributed in a document of 1749. The case for Chédeville must rest chiefly on his pre-eminence as a composer for the musette and the hurdy-gurdy (vielle a roue). He was described in contemporary sources as the master of the musette for the ladies of France.
Whatever their authorship, the sonatas of Il Pastor Fido contain attractive music, with varied dance movements. In particular the fourth sonata contains a typical Pastorale, a version of the Siciliana generally associated with shepherds, whether at Bethlehem or elsewhere, here with an added solo cello. The final sonata, the only one of the set in a minor key, contains a fugue with two voices, the bass figuring allowing the addition of chordal harmony from the keyboard instrument.
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